i have met so many ashok’s in my lifetime. today i met another li’l one. he lived in NGEF but was working outside downtown pub selling stickers. while i was chatting with him and he responded to every query of mine, he watched my sister undistracedly as she picked up a couple of stickers to have a closer look. he noticed a trend and soon picked out all the Jesus and Trinity stickers and presented them to her. he had a basketful of colourful stickers of all religions, all languages, all sorts of disney characters. every morning he went to the city market to buy these and then would travel to residency road and sell them. he told me he went to school. i wanted to belive him.
the other ashoks i know had wonderfully interesting stories as well. one was ashok of the summer camp fame and the other, an ashok from a tribal village where my dad works who was the only person in years of the tribe’s existence to finish high school and graduate and make sure that his remote village was not remote anymore. he came back to teach the children of the tribe. he wanted to give back to society what it had given him – a chance.
i woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. i was extremely emotional and a simple hi would have made me burst into tears. i didn’t know why i was feeling so burdened. perhaps it was the thickening sense of disillusionment with the social sector. fury had me for breakfast and lunch. i brokedown in front of people i would otherwise never have allowed myself to be vulnerable around. and then i got a call.
a volunteer and a hard-core techie called to tell me that she was planning to take that leap of faith and jump into the social sector. i wanted to shout and push her across the line where she can remain in love with the idea of change and making a difference and not have to go through the things that i was going through. before i could say anything she said “i know i may get disillusioned in the social sector. every company that looks so perfect has it’s cracks but i know in my heart that this is what i want to do. i realised it when i see you engaging with children and with volunteers. no matter how frustrating it may be, you never seemed selfish when you spared more smiles than were necessary. i want to be like you. i want to make a difference. i want to quit my job and learn something about social work. that means leaving behind everything i know and love but i know that i’ll never be happy if i don’t try. i know you’ve taken that leap and i know that the world will try and stop me. so far, everyone has called me a fool. i need one person to tell me i need to go with my heart and i know that one person is you. you’ve made this volunteering dream special for me and now i want to dedicate all my life to do it. help!”
i pretended to laugh as i wiped away the tears that were shamelesly flowing now. i told her to go for it. but my conversation with her about it lasted 40 mins. when i joined this job, i only looked at it as a job. i slowly started seeing it as my duty to the world and before the call i had just felt so out of things that i felt like i was drowning. i had felt myself and my confidence hit rock bottom. i had been feeling i was useless and that nothing i ever did was good enough. i had been feeling like nothing i did or said made a difference. i was slowly distancing myself and walking away. keeping a job as a job is much easier but here when i thought that all my efforts were in vain, here was this person who had waved back. it was an aha moment. sometimes my heart and the person i engage with connects and then i know that my being there actually makes a difference.
i sighed and put my seat belt on. if today was any indication of the year to come, it’s going to be one helluva roller coaster ride!